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Grand Canyon Running, Rim2Rim2Rim Adventure

Grand Canyon Running, Rim2Rim2Rim Adventure

BY GUEST BLOGGER NEW OCTOBER 26, 2020

Path Projects KREW member Gunnar Barrera recently ran his first R2R2R run at the Grand Canyon. This was by far Gunnar's longest run to date and an incredible experience. In this post he shares his experiences, learnings and tips for other runners and hikers looking to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

Last weekend I drove to the Grand Canyon, AZ, with friends from my local trail running club. We set out to run the Rim2Rim2Rim trail. This run is estimated at 40-plus-miles and more than 10,000 ft of elevation. Our journey began at the South Kaibab Trail to the North Rim and ended going back up the Bright Angel Trail.

South Kaibab Trail


We started out on the South Kaibab trail toward Phantom Ranch. The sky was covered with stars. As we made our way down into the canyon, it was still dark, and you could see the lights of runners and hikers’ headlamps starting their journey into the canyon; it was quite the sight to see. This part of the trail was mainly downhill and was the easier part of the run, it was a great way to get a start on this epic journey.

rim2rim2rim start

As the sun started to rise, the headlamps were put away and we could finally begin to see the amazing views of the Grand Canyon. Making our way into the canyon and seeing the Colorado River closer than ever was amazing. Throughout the run I couldn’t help but stop and take in the views. I took as much in as I possibly could. Every corner you’d turn was a new view!

view of the grand canyon

Runners and hikers were scattered throughout the trail. Everyone enjoying their activities and going about their individual journeys. It was empowering to see so many people taking on the canyon! Everyone said “Hello!” and shouted, “Great job!”. People encouraging each other is truly one of my favorite things about the sport.

rim2rim2rim trail


As we arrived at Phantom Ranch, we took a short break and then continued our adventure to Cottonwood Campground. The trails here weaved in and out of the canyon with breath taking views.

We finally approached the last stop, Supai Tunnel, before making the trek up to the North Rim. As I started to make my climb out of the canyon this is where I began to have a difficult time. Climbing seemed to take forever! This long, uphill segment took a toll on my physical and mental well-being. The views were amazing and provided a nice break from the grueling challenge. As time passed, I started to notice more people who looked well rested and not so worn out... there were more shouts of encouragement which meant only meant one thing, I was getting closer to finishing (this part at least!).

grand canyon views

Once I arrived at the North Rim I was greeted by fellow friends which immediately lifted my spirits. At this point in the run, I was tired and in pain. I had to force myself to eat and “fill up the tank” for my way back to the South Rim; having water is what really did the trick for me. The water was ice cold and tasted so fresh! After a few minutes of rest and replenishment, I made my way back to begin the fun all over again.

Luckily, I had some friends to make my way back with. This was beneficial because we all helped each other get through the second part of this journey. Running with friends is always better! I can’t express how much they all helped me get through the second half of this.

running views from grand canyon

The way back to Phantom Ranch wasn’t as grueling. It was mostly downhill, but another great spot to stop and refuel. At this point there were about 10 miles left on the journey… with another enormous climb out of the canyon. As we made our way toward the Bright Angel trail we crossed the beautiful waters of the Colorado River on a suspension bridge that can only be accessed by trekking down the canyon.

Gunnar rim2rim2rim adventure

The beginning of this part of the trail was mostly flat, with a gradual incline, and some downhill areas. Shortly after, the true climbing began again. The sun started to set and on went the headlamps again to continue the journey in the dark.

grand canyon bridge 
Arriving at the Indian Garden, there was about 4.5 miles left. From this point, every 1.5 miles there were water stops which helped me count how much was left as my watch had died. Again, this was another mental and physical test for me. It was pitch black by this point with only the light from my headlamp to guide the way in front of me. In what seemed to be endless switchbacks, and a few hours later, I finally made it back to the top of the North Rim.

Gunnar Barrera Straight Angel Trailhead

Finally done!! 
After almost 18 hours of being in the Canyon I was finally done. I was extremely tired, but still full of life. Seeing other friends again and their energy really helped me too. Before seeing those from my group, it was dark, lonely, and felt as it was never ending.

Gunnar rim2rim2rim

This was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I have done to date. This run (if you can call it that) took a lot out me, but also gave so much more back to me at the same time. The group of runners I got to run with were all so encouraging and motivating. It was a privilege getting to run and share the adventure with them. I honestly couldn’t have done this without all their support and help. I’m already looking forward to doing this run again. Not many get to see the Grand Canyon from the bottom up, I’m one of the lucky few.

rim2rim2rim views

Running gear used for this adventure

My gear worked out superb, especially my Path Projects outfit. I’d like to point out that throughout the 18 hours of running and hiking I experience ZERO chaffing in any part of my body. Friends complained about chaffing in several areas and were shocked that I didn’t chafe at all. My only response was “Path Projects, baby!”
Since this was a self-supported adventure I relied on my hydration pack to store my nutrition and water. I carried three 20oz soft flasks, Tailwind, 6 packs of GU Energy Chews, salt pills, and 2 veggie burritos.
I had to think of the long day on my feet, so I took comfort into account. I opted for my HOKA One One Speedgoat 4’s because of the maximum cushion. These worked perfectly for me as my feet were not tired at all throughout my journey. The socks as well were a great fit with my shoe choice. Stance Run 360 kept my feet dry and comfortable all day.
 

Shorts: GRAVES PX 7”- BLACK

Base Liner: TAHOE CL 5” Base Liner

Shirt: CASCADE SS T - BLACK

Shirt: PYRENEES T19 HOODED LONG SLEEVE SHIRT

Hat: BADLANDS CAP - BLACK

Bandana: PINYON BANDANA - STONE 

Hydration Pack: NATHAN VAPORKRAR 4L

Shoes: HOKA ONE ONE SPEEDGOAT 4

Socks: Stance Run Feel 360

Headlamp: NATHAN Luna Fire 250 RX RUN CHEST/WAIST LIGHT

Water Filter: Katadyn Water Filter

Gunnar photo

Tips for runners/hikers looking to do Rim2Rim2Rim

  1. Confirm what water stations are on/off. Water isn’t guaranteed so check with rangers and/or the visitor’s center prior to arriving and the day before you start your adventure.

  2. Bring a water filter in case some or most of the water stations are off. Most of the run is beside the river which can be accessed by foot once in the canyon. 

  3. Be mindful of the time of year you decide to run. With how exposed the canyon is temperatures increase once you get down into the canyon.

  4. Bring plenty of nutrition. Pack what you think you will need and a little extra. This is a self-supported run. Phantom Ranch has food and drinks but it’s not wise to rely solely on this.

  5. Bring trekking poles if possible. They are beneficial when climbing out of the canyon and can assist when your legs/quads are spent.

  6. Nutrition that is high in calories and/or caffeine.

  7. Don’t go about this alone. Be sure to be with at least one person to make sure you’re safe and accounted for.

  8. Have fun, take pictures, and take it all in! Most people don’t get the chance to run in the Grand Canyon let alone see it! 

5 comentários

Great job and article, Gunnar! I am really proud of you and your ability to take on such a challenge!

Cheryl,

Did R3 on Friday, Oct 23rd with 6 pals. Great hearing about it from another perspective. Congrats Gunnar.

Matthew McCartie,

So awesome and congrats to Gunnar! What an amazing accomplishment

Jason Cohen,

So amazing!!!! Me and 6 other buddies did it for the first time on Oct. 23rd…. what an amazing experience. It was both brutal and beautiful and would love to do it again.

Congrats.

Rhett Smith,

sounds like an incredible adventure! Definitely on my list in the next couple of years.

Mark,

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